Former tennis star Ashleigh Barty has turned her hand to cricket, signing with the Brisbane Heat for the inaugural Women's Big Bash League season this summer. Barty, 19, reached the doubles finals at Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open with partner Casey Dellacqua in 2013 and has competed in the singles at all four grand slams, but walked away from tennis last year.
Barty approached Queensland Cricket earlier this year to enquire about making a switch to cricket and she has since then joined Western Suburbs in the Brisbane Women's Premier Cricket competition. Last weekend she top scored in her first T20 game with 63 not out from 60 balls, as well as taking 2 for 13 from four overs.
Barty has been training alongside the Queensland Fire squad since July, having become interested in a switch to cricket when she addressed the Southern Stars team as part of their winter training programme earlier this year. She said she was drawn to cricket as a team sport as compared to tennis.
"It is tough when you're by yourself and I think that's why team sport is so appealing," Barty told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday. "I'm still connected very much to tennis and everything it has to offer. It's been a part of me since I was four years old and is never going to leave me.
"There's never a lonesome moment on the [cricket] field if you're struggling. There's 10 other girls that can help you out and get you through the tough times."
Queensland Fire coach Andy Richards was impressed by the "transferable skills" Barty brought to cricket from her tennis background, and predicted she could be a future Australia representative if she pursued cricket seriously.
"Her skill from the first time she picked up a bat was outstanding from a coach's perspective," Richards said. "She never missed a ball in her first session. She's probably hit more balls than most of our cricket players coming through.
"It might not have been a cricket ball, but it's a ball at 120kph plus an hour. That's what attracted me as a coach to her as a player, her ability to pick up things really quickly."